With the hindsight of thirty-plus years, it’s clear that Ohio, statewide, was the reigning champ of mid-70’s to early 80’s seminal underground greatness. No other state produced such broad-spectrumed nonconformity—from the avant-whuh? coming out of Hospital Records in Cincinnati (to say nothing of Scum of the Earth’s legendary appearance on WKRP) to the oft-chronicled/better known p-u-n-k and art-shart oozing out of Cleveland and Columbus.
And then there’s Akron. “Where the rubber meets the road,” said Mark Mothersbaugh to Dick Clark, when Devo appeared on American Bandstand in 1981. While surely an accurate city slogan, Akron was also home to The Bizarros, who obviously never got the national recognition others from their region received (even with a 1979 LP released by Mercury Records), but with Windian Records putting out this Bizarros 1976-1980 double LP compiling the Mercury LP, their singles, their split LP with Rubber City Rebels, three demos for a second LP that never materialized (previously unreleased), and three live tracks (including a killer cover of Music Machine’s “Talk Talk”) from 1979, now is a good time to (re)discover a band who—in spite of whatever creative debts they owed to one Louis Reed, Alice Cooper (perhaps?), and Cleveland legends like Peter Laughner and David Thomas—created a prismatic collection of well-executed music that both straddles the line between artsy and punksy and therefore quite often sounds like it could have come out last week.
While so many of their contemporaries the whole wide world over were learning to play as they went along (assuming they even bothered trying to learn to play), what’s immediately apparent in every Bizarros song across these four sides is that these guys knew their instruments and could therefore realize their vision…with an end result like something akin to Television if you replaced the urban sophistication with a rust belted frenetic twitch. Their drummers play possessed (their first drummer, the late Rick Garberson in particular) as they use their whole kits in precise propulsion. The bass line in “Lady Doubonette” is a snake-sneak of instant earworm. The guitars downstroke in Sterling Morrison subway rhythms, then break into these unorthodox (especially for the time) one note at a time scale-skipping like in “New Order” or “Nova” or “Seeing is Believing.” Over all of this, Nick Nicholis talk-sings of “clocktower dreams” and poetic street imagery so representative of the times, while still finding time to lament the coked-out malaise of disco queens in “Quiana Girls.” In the transitions, the songs start, stop, hop, jerk, then shoot into the next parts in a bold creativity rarely heard from anyone—then or now.
Between the ease of finding new music and the steady reissues and rediscoveries of bands like Bizarros, it’s a great time to be a music fan and/or a musician ever on the hunt for inspiration. This collection has a lot to offer both camps.
Pick up a copy of the 2LP collection right HERE, and check out "Lady Doubonette" from The Bizarros' first EP from 1976: